By Prof. G.M. Athar
Nund Reshi is the product of the fusion between indigenous Shivism of Kashmir with Sufism of Central Asia in the 14th century. The people of Kashmir call him Sheikh ul Alam without defining the word “Alam” which means the world. There is nothing special about Nund Reshi on the basis of which we can consider him having the world level fame or following. The word “Alarm” used by the Kashmiri folk is simply the Kashmiri speaking Kashmir Valley because his poetry is in Sanskritised Kashmiri language of his time understandable only to the Kashmiri speaking people who lived in Kashmir Valley and its adjoining areas.
Nund Reshi represented the typical Kashmiri mentality as he referred to the Persian and Central Asian Syeds by the derogatory term “Malleh” a corrupted from of Mavlana or Mullah. Nund Reshi a Kashmiri vegetarian Reshi had developed hatred against the non-vegetarian outside Syeds who had settled in Kashmir in the late 14th century.
Nund Reshi had lived in a cave in isolation from his wife and children which reflects either his maladjustment with the family or his deviance from the normal social life. The distaste for wordly things found in the Hindu and Buddhist monks in Kashmir can be a reason for abandoning the family life. Alternatively the failed marriage, could have been the reason for abandoning his wife and the children to live a lonely life in a cave.
Some people assert his vision as an ecologist because of his saying “ ann posheh teli yeli wan posheh” meaning we can continue to gather forest products as long as the forest is there. “Ann” in Sanskrit language means food but in Kashmiri language it means gathering or bringing home which is a common sense usage of the word. However, once we derive from “ann” the meaning of food, it doesn’t refer only to the process of food gathering but also to maintaining ecological balance to produce food on the sustainable basis. Nund Reshi had no knowledge of ecology or environmental science, so his saying didn’t refer to the concept of maintaining ecological balance through conservation of forests to ensure sustainable food production.
The real contribution of Nund Reshi is that the teachings of Quran written in Arabic were expressed by him in Kashmiri language to make these understandable to the Kashmiri folk. So Nund Reshi can be regarded as the first Kashmiri poet who made Sufi brand of Islam as the subject of his poetry and spread the message of Islam amongst the Kashmiri speaking people of Kashmir Valley and its adjoining areas. He enriched the Kashmiri language with his Sufi poetry and developed Kashmiri Muslim consciousness among the people of Kashmir who had embraced Islam under the influence of Central Asian Syeds like Syed Abul Rahman Turkestani popularly known as Bulbul Shah, Mir Syed Ali Hamadani known as Shah Hamadan in Kashmir, Mir Mohammed Hamadani and several other Sufi saints who came to Kashmir with the sole purpose of spreading Islam in a sovereign Sultanate whose rulers were Muslims but the subjects were mostly either Buddhists or the followers of Kashmiri Shivism.
Prof. G.M.Athar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..in